Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has made a visit to Kāpiti College to thank students and ex-students for 10 years of advocacy work.
For the last 10 years students from the college have been hard at work advocating for those with neurodiverse learning styles, particularly young people with dyslexia [reading issues], dyspraxia [motor], dyscalculia [numbers] and dysgraphia [writing].
The students are part of a group of around 150 neurodiverse learners at Kāpiti College where teachers meet the needs of their learning styles.
The students believe all neurodiverse learners should have the opportunity to thrive in New Zealand's education system.
It is not the children who are disabled, it's the education system.
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Many have spoken in Parliament, presented submissions to and hosted the Education and Science Select Committee, made documentaries, presented to educators, parents and children, and been interviewed and filmed for radio and television.
They've had their voices heard, particularly by Catherine Delahunty, Tracey Martin, Marama Davidson and Jacinda Ardern.
The government announced at last year's Labour Party conference there will be $217m spent on creating Learning Support Coordinators in schools and colleges.
"I want to thank schools like Kāpiti College who came to Catherine Delahuntly's select committee inquiry," Marama Davidson said.
"They made it very clear what is needed.
"As one of the Kāpiti College teachers' Sarah Sharpe actually said, 'It is not the children who are disabled, it's the education system'."
Sarah Sharpe is in charge of neurodiversity education at Kāpiti College.
This is seen by the students as a very significant first step in levelling the playing field for neurodiverse learners.
Some of the students' key recommendations are for all children to be screened when they enter primary school, teachers to be trained to understand how to recognise and work effectively with neurodiverse learners as a compulsory part of their teacher training degree, increase public awareness so that everyone understands along with remediation and accommodations provided by all schools and colleges.
"We continue to advocate with our students.
"Our goal is to see all schools and colleges in New Zealand equipped to meet the needs of neurodiverse learners."
On her visit Marama presented the students with a white orchid, which she explained was a metaphor for themselves.
"It must be given the right amount of light and water.
"Just the correct amount to meet its needs so that it can thrive and prosper.
"Just as they need understanding, kindness and appropriate teaching, to allow them to thrive and develop into beautiful and successful individuals."
Marama said she had learnt more from her visit and listening to the students than she had in many years as a politician.